Life Cycle Assessment

Directed by science

The U.S. and Australian cotton industries prioritize sustainability strategies and practices based on scientific data. To understand the full environmental impacts of a textile product requires a large amount of research and data analysis. Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) create a framework in which to measure and analyze potential environmental impacts from raw material extraction to product disposal. LCAs provide valuable insights to decision makers by identifying key impact areas – “hotspots” – and enabling environmental benchmarking to measure future progress.

For all of these reasons, in 2010 the Cotton Foundation performed the most comprehensive LCA of cotton clothing ever attempted. An update and expansion to the original LCA was completed in 2016 to provide the most detailed and current data for the sustainability community and sourcing professionals. The findings are now helping Cotton LEADS™ founders determine areas for future research and development investment.

The updated research provides a more comprehensive snapshot of cotton across all phases of product life and its relationship to the environment. A larger pool of global consumers was included in the update to more accurately reflect the impact of consumer use and disposal of cotton textiles.

Results indicated that the textile manufacturing and consumer use phases dominated most of the impact categories assessed. Although agricultural production’s contribution to total impact was lower than textile manufacturing and consumer use, agriculture did have the major portion of the impacts on water consumption and eutrophication potential.

Get more detailed results by phase of life in the Executive Summary or access the full report.

Accountability Down the Chain

Explore the research and resources we’ve pulled this information from.